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January 2, 2008 > The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner

By Mona Shah

Based on the surprise bestseller by Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir - a newly-published author who remains haunted by a childhood mistake that severely affected the life of his closest friend, Hassan. Years later, Amir is offered the chance to atone for his error in judgment when Hassan's son finds himself in a sticky situation.

Director Marc Forster - working from David Benioff's screenplay - has infused the early part of The Kite Runner with a light-hearted sensibility. The film opens in 2001 in San Francisco and an immediate flashback to 1978 in Kabul. The 12-year-old Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) and his 12-year-old best friend and protector, the illiterate Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada), son of the loyal servant of Amir's wealthy, sophisticated father, Baba (Homayoun Ershadi), win as the best kite runners in Kabul. The contest calls for flying brightly colored kites across town and "cutting" the highest number of competitors' strings until the last one is standing. But three older boys, led by the bully Assef (Elham Ehsas), angry that Hassan is a Hazara, not a a so-called real Afghani Pashtun like him or Amir, beat and rape Hassan while the cowardly Amir just watches - a horror that haunts Amir with guilt for the rest of his life.

The care and respect that Forster has taken to accurately depict Afghan culture is reflected in how appealing the boys seem to us. When in Afghanistan, the dialogue between the characters is in Dari- an Afghan dialect. Insight into what Kabul must have looked like before the Soviet invasion and after, when the trees were cut down as the Taliban patrol, is heart wrenching but superbly depicted.

When the Russians invade Afghanistan Amir and his father flee, settling in Fremont, California. Here their lives change dramatically from the lifestyle in their homeland. Baba works at a gas station and the grown-up Amir begins taking classes at a local community college to develop his writing skills. This is where he meets and marries fellow exile Soraya Taheri (Atossi Leoni). Their days are far from happy as Amir watches his father die and learns that he and his wife cannot have children.

Amir returns, in disguise, to Kabul, in an attempt to redress his childhood sins- in search of Hassan's son, Sohrab. Having lived in an orphanage, Sohrab is sold into slavery to a Taliban official. This official conveniently turns out to be Assef, the sneering teenager who had masterminded Hassan's rape. After an ensuing fight to the death between Assef and Amir, with Sohrab as the prize, a brutally beaten and injured Amir emerges victorious.

In the end, its Khalid Abdalla's masterful performance as Amir - as well as the surprisingly thrilling finale - that cements the movie's status as a riveting piece of work.

Runtime: 2 hrs. 7 mins.

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